It was early in the morning and the boardroom was full. The CEO of this 10,000+ employee strong information technology enabled services (ITeS) major was chairing a meeting to share the findings from and analysis of its most recent employee engagement study.
The Chief of Human Resources (CHRO) listened carefully to every word that the CEO said during his opening remarks and anticipated good news from the findings.
Last study had highlighted challenges around incongruent messaging and employee experience across the organisation. It also highlighted the need for a compelling employer brand. To address this, the organisation had activated an employer brand communication programme. It covered multiple geographies and business units and was driven centrally. The CHRO was confident that the series of initiatives would result in greater employee engagement.
However, the data told a different story. The overall employee engagement level for the organisation had dropped by 4%. Even more worrying was a 20% drop in the percentage of highly engaged employees.
On seeing the findings from the study, the reaction in the room ranged from “I can’t believe this” to “This can’t be true. We need to get another opinion”. However, the CEO quickly diffused the highly charged emotions and gave a calm response.
He said, “Do we know where we missed the point?”
Three key insights emerged as we went into data analysis:
Averages hide the variations
6 in 10 employees at an overall level gave a positive response about the delivery of brand promise. This hid a key trend.
Over 70% of a group of employees stated that the organisation was delivering on its promise. However, only 40% from another group agreed with this.
So while the organisation was working hard for greater consistency in brand messaging and employee experience, overall averages hid important variations that existed across different employee groups.
Consistency is good, relevance is better
The organisation hired graduates to provide back-end data processing support to its clients. They also hired engineering graduates from premier engineering schools to provide product development services.
Employee perception of delivery on employer brand promise across key areas such as career opportunities, performance management, and learning and development opportunities remained consistent across both these employee groups. However, their experience and expectations on these varied significantly.
This meant that the same programmes or similar manager behaviours were experienced differently across employee segments. What was highly desired and relevant for one talent segment did not resonate as effectively with the other.
Opportunity to realise one’s potential or making an impact continued to be the key message of the organisation but the ‘how’ of it in terms of employee experience had to be tailored in line with the different employee groups.
E.g. the organisation had rolled out a companywide skill building program to enliven the promise of realizing one’s potential. While the data processing part of the business welcomed the move with great gusto, the product development teams saw this program as a drain on their time. They wanted greater autonomy to choose the number and type of programmes they attended.
This clearly emphasised the need to dig a little deeper and understand the ways of working for distinct employee groups to make the brand come alive
Listen and act
The situation also pointed to a need to set up a listening architecture at the programme design stage itself. As highlighted by Aon Hewitt’s Anand Shankar, technology is playing a dual role of an enabler and a disrupter in the workplace and has provided HR with a great opportunity to connect, communicate and transform in a manner like never before.
While the need for building a strong employee value proposition and supporting it with a compelling employer brand is real, organisations must engage with their employees continuously to develop the brand offering and deliver it successfully
As organisations start to define and activate their employee value proposition (EVP), it’s important to have a clear view of the current and future business needs and its capability requirements. The EVP must talk to the experience it promises and how it is delivered to different talent segments within the organization.
To differentiate itself in the marketplace to attract talent, an organisation must consider the diversities that exist within its existing employee base. It must listen and then act to appeal to the various employee segments to transform employee engagement.
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